WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 21, 2011, 07:30 PM

EGF Begins Floodwall Construction

Weather could delay East Grand Forks' effort to put up their invisible flood wall. Crews started doing that Monday. With decent weather, it takes about three days to get the job done.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

Weather could delay East Grand Forks' effort to put up their "invisible" flood wall. Crews started doing that Monday. With decent, weather it takes about three days to get the job done.

City crews are back in downtown East Grand Forks. Stacking stoplog by stoplog, building what is known as the invisible flood wall.

"We are getting a lot of practice at it. So I think we have it pretty well down at this point," EGF city administrator Scott Huizenga said.

This is the third consecutive year where flood predictions call for the wall. City workers again called off their regular jobs that include street crews.

"Water and Light has all their electric workers and water workers and even a computer guy down there as well," Scott Gravseth with EGF Water and Light said.

Gravseth says he has not heard workers complain. He says it's a change of pace for them. Most of the work is done during their regular hours to avoid overtime. The flood wall will be built to the maximum height providing protection of a Red River crest of 60 feet. Protection that likely will not be needed this year. But city administrator Huizenga says it's not that much more effort to build the entire wall.

"Once the water gets close to the wall, we can't go back and put more in because we have to get to it from the wet side," Huizenga said.

Depending on the weather, it will only take a crew of about 15 to finish the wall.

"It's changed. It used to be that volunteers worked for weeks throwing sandbags like they do in other communities and now it just all the city departments that do all the flood prep," Gravseth said.

The city says putting up the flood wall is an attraction and can be good for business. It only hurts businesses when the flood wall is built and the downtown bridge closure, which is estimated to be at least a few weeks away.

The Army Corps of Engineers requires the East Grand Forks to build the flood wall every five years for testing and training.

The flood wall has not started going up on the Grand Forks side of the river yet.

The only places Grand Forks will putting up the temporary flood walls are on the streets leading to the bridges, and openings along the Greenway.

The city will wait until the Red River reaches certain levels before putting those in place, in order to keep the bridges open longer.

"There's about a 50 percent chance of a 50 foot crest. That would mean both the Point and Sorlie Bridge would end up closing. We would still be able to keep the Kennedy Bridge open," GF public information officer Kevin Dean said.

Both of the pedestrian walking bridges have been closed so the railings could be removed to prevent damages during the flood.